I found these puffballs in the grass along the edge of the woods two days ago. Giant puffballs, Calvatia gigantea, are edible but they have to be harvested and used while quite fresh. Once they start to dry and turn yellow and brown, they not only lose their culinary appeal, they apparently become toxic. So when these presented themselves at the right time this year, we harvested, prepared a couple meals, and dried quite a few. The golf ball, which was also in the grass, gives an idea of their size, and they can be a lot bigger than these specimens. Soccer ball size is not uncommon.
Unlike many mushrooms, it’s difficult to confuse giant puffballs with other mushrooms. That’s a good thing. We learned a long time ago that they were edible. While I’ve seen some online rave reviews regarding their taste, we find them quite bland. They give off a strong mushroom odor and have a slight mushroom flavor, but they remind us of unflavored raw tofu, not too exciting. That does not detract from their value and in some ways enhances it. The puffball inside is spongy and absorbent. It sucks up liquid and takes on the taste of whatever flavors and seasoning it is cooked with.
Here’s Judy’s recipe for delicious fried puffball slices:
Egg wash – mix these ingredients together:
2 eggs, beaten
2 T. water
salt and pepper optional or to taste
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, we used leftover dried sourdough bread
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
3-4 T. olive oil
Brush any dirt off the puffballs, then peel off the outer skin. Carefully cut into 1/2″ slices. They tend to crumble so do the best you can. Dip slices in the egg wash then in breading mixture. Fry in olive oil in cast iron frying pan preheated to medium high for about 3 minutes per side. Serve with salsa or bruschetta.
We also cooked some up with eggs. We saved the left over crumb mixture in the freezer and the next morning mixed it with about 4 cups cubed puffball mushrooms and 2 beaten eggs. This made an excellent scramble, fried with onions and a little hot pepper for about 8 minutes. The Parmesan cheese made it special – really delicious!
This morning, breakfast tacos – cubed fresh mushroom, onions, garlic and hot pepper sautéed for 6 minutes then beaten eggs scrambled in.
We had way more than we could eat fresh so we dried a few. We cleaned and sliced the mushrooms about 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick. We arranged them on parchment paper covered cookie sheets and dried in a 200 degree oven with the drying fan on, rotating the cookie sheets about every 30 minutes. It took a little over four hours to get dry. Once dried, they become very fragile and crumble easily. We may have to use them as a powder rather than whole pieces.
If you find them at the right time, Giant puffballs are free, fun to work with and good to eat.